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Values for Employing Spiritual Gifts

Values are like a compass showing us due north. Values give us direction. Values make our lives easier, because they’ve already settled issues for us that we don’t have to wrestle with every time they come up. Values help us focus on right-living.

In 1 Peter 4:7-11, the Lord provides us with five values to guide us as we employ our spiritual gifts in the family of Christ:

“The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 4:7-11) [Read more →]

February 14, 2009   Comments Off on Values for Employing Spiritual Gifts

God is Great!

God is good.
God is great.
Thank you for our food. Amen.

The second stanza of this children’s prayer affirms, God is great. If God were only good, but not great, he could not be God. If God were great, but not good, he would be most terrible, unpredictable—a being to fear and cower before. But our God is both good and great! God’s abundant goodness and amazing greatness combined to bring about our salvation:

“I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 1:18-20) [Read more →]

January 18, 2009   Comments Off on God is Great!

Growing closer to God through his Word

We don’t typically view the study of the Word relationally, but more intellectually, scientifically, grammatically, culturally and historically. To be sure, all of those disciplines come to our aid in understanding the meaning of the text for the original reader and then for us. However, because the Bible is God’s Word—his communication to us—we cannot rightly approach the Bible apart from relationship with its Author. This viewpoint is not optional but foundational for studying God’s Word.

I would further add, that if we come to God’s Word with a purpose other than getting to know him better, we may be studying it for the wrong reasons. Even a life time of study will not unearth all the gems that God’s Word has to offer us. But those gems are not merely “nuggets of knowledge” but jewels of God’s character and works through which we can know, love and enjoy him better.

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January 6, 2009   Comments Off on Growing closer to God through his Word

Discipleship is a Relational Process

Discipleship is a Relational Process. God’s desire and plan for us as his children is to become like him. The true child of God desperately wants to please his heavenly Father and become like him. This is what we mean by “growing in him.” Discipleship is a life-long process of drawing near to God through Jesus Christ and inviting him to change us. In fact, we cannot draw near to God and remain unchanged! Being in his presence is what changes us. To this end Jesus said, “Follow me.”

Rightly seen, discipleship is a relational process between the follower/disciple and Jesus Christ. When we see someone who relates well with others—tactfully, appropriately and courteously, we say that individual possesses and displays social grace. The word grace provides us with a great mind picture of traits that are both bestowed by God and cultivated by us. In this context, Webster’s Dictionary defines grace as: “A virtue coming from God; a disposition to kindness and courtesy; a sense of propriety or right; and the quality or state of being considerate or thoughtful.”  [Read more →]

December 30, 2008   Comments Off on Discipleship is a Relational Process

How Do We Follow Jesus?

How do we follow Jesus? God wants to change us. His plan for us is to transform us—to make us more like him, more like Jesus in character. As we have seen, his Holy Spirit plays a central role in bringing about this life change as he lives in us and communicates with us. Living and walking and communicating in relationship with him is essentially what it means to be a disciple or follower of Jesus Christ.

So, how do we follow Jesus Christ? To answer that question let’s look at what Jesus told those who wanted to be his disciples. Jesus told his listeners:

“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23 NLT) [Read more →]

December 29, 2008   Comments Off on How Do We Follow Jesus?

What Do We Do with what God Tells Us?

What do we do with what God tells us? A couple of years ago a young man came to me in complete frustration and confusion about God’s leading in his life. Steve was totally convinced that God had told him to pursue a relationship with a certain young lady. (She is also a follower of Christ.) Steve’s frustration came when this young woman refused to enter into a romantic relationship with him. She simply had no such affections for him, nor felt God leading her the way Steve insisted God was leading him. This internal conflict went on for some months, during which I had several meetings with Steve.

Then one day, this young lady announced her engagement to another man and soon married. Steve was heart-broken over his loss, but even more difficult was his confusion and disappointment over God’s leading in his life. Did he or did he not hear God say, “Pursue this woman”? The outcome does not necessarily answer that question. And I could not tell Steve with certainty whether he had or had not heard God correctly or at all. [Read more →]

December 28, 2008   Comments Off on What Do We Do with what God Tells Us?

How Do I Recognize God’s Voice?

How do I recognize God’s voice? In 1 Samuel 3:1-14 we read the account of young Samuel’s first exposure to the voice of God. The Lord called to him and twice Samuel mistook God’s voice for that of Eli the priest. The text comments, “Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.” (Vs. 7)
 
We hear many “voices” out there besides God’s. We often find ourselves lured by the voice of world—its philosophy, thought patterns and priorities. Others with whom we spend time influence us profoundly by their language, cajoling and opinions. The evil one rails on us by accusing, discouraging and casting doubt. Our own fleshly desires call to us to self-preoccupation, self-gratification and self-importance. Sometimes a foreign thought simply appears in our mind and we wonder, “Where did that come from?” [Read more →]

December 26, 2008   3 Comments

The Holy Spirit Explains the Scriptures to Us

The Holy Spirit explains the Scriptures to us. “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14:26) The Holy Spirit authored the Scriptures to be read and understood. He delights in making himself known to us through his Word.

There are a variety of ways in which the Holy Spirit explains the Bible to us. Sometimes he gives us the ability to suddenly grasp the meaning of a passage, which had confused us before. Such an experience seems primarily cognitive in nature, but may have far reaching relational impact as well. I say that because we’re not merely seeking an intellectual thrill in understanding a new thing from the Bible. The Bible is very intellectually stimulating, but that’s a by-product not the goal. Paul prayed for the church in Ephesus, “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” (Ephesians 1:17) [Read more →]

December 23, 2008   3 Comments

The Holy Spirit Transforms Us

The Holy Spirit transforms us.  On the face of it we may not think of the Holy Spirit’s transforming work in us as relational and requiring communication. But if we reflect on what it is that Christ wants to change in us, we realize that the changes are predominantly character issues. God’s plan for us is to make us more like Christ in character. “Just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’” (1 Peter 1:15-16)

The point is that these character issues (Christlikeness) have primarily to do with relationships—those with God and with others. Even a speedy review of key passages like Romans 12:3-15:7; Galatians 5:22-23 (the fruit of the Spirit); Ephesians 4:17-5:33; and Colossians 3:12-4:6 reveal that the nature of the transformation God wants to bring about in us is profoundly relational. As his children we are to imitate him (Ephesians 5:1). [Read more →]

December 20, 2008   Comments Off on The Holy Spirit Transforms Us

The Holy Spirit Enables Us to Think Like Christ

The Holy Spirit enables us to think like Christ. In 1 Corinthians 2:10-16, Paul lays out an incredible truth for us. To paraphrase this passage, Paul says, “No other person knows my thoughts. In the same way, only God knows his thoughts. But since the Holy Spirit is God, he knows the thoughts of God. And God has given us his Spirit, so that we too can know God’s thoughts!” And then Paul summarizes with the bold statement, “We have the mind of Christ.” This truth is highly relational and highly communicative. This fact stands at the core of Paul’s assertion.

I think I speak for all followers of Christ when I say that we don’t always feel like we have the mind of Christ. We tend to judge the veracity of something based on our experience. When we don’t experience having the mind of Christ (or what we assume that is) we either argue that Paul must not have really meant that we have the mind of Christ. Or we conclude that we must have some deficiency that prevents us from knowing the mind of Christ. Either way, we assume we don’t really experience having the mind of Christ. [Read more →]

December 18, 2008   2 Comments